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Kenya building collapse: Death toll stands at 49 as rescue efforts end

Nairobi: A total of 49 people are confirmed to have died after an apartment building collapsed in the Kenyan capital, authorities have said, as they announced the end of the rescue operations.

The six-storey block went down on 29 April in an impoverished part of Nairobi following days of heavy rain,
triggering a desperate search for survivors.

Overall, 140 people were rescued, said Pius Masai, the head of Kenya's natural disaster management unit.

Among the lucky ones was a seven-month-old baby who was miraculously found alive after four days under the rubble. Her mother did not survive. Four other residents were pulled to safety as late as Thursday.

"We have come to the end of this search and rescue operation after recovering 49 bodies for people confirmed dead," said Masai on Saturday.

 Kenya building collapse: Death toll stands at 49 as rescue efforts end

Rescue workers search for survivors under the rubble of an apartment block in Nairobi. AFP

Another 47 people remained missing, he added, though it was unclear whether they were actually in the building at the time of the accident.

The recovery operations had in recent days been extended to a river bordering the apartment building, because emergency workers feared some residents may have tried to jump to safety as the building crumbled around them.

The dwelling's collapse has been blamed on a combination of shoddy construction and bad weather.

Located in the poor, tightly-packed Huruma neighbourhood, the building, which housed around 150 families crammed intosingle rooms, had been slated for demolition after being declared structurally unsound.

But an evacuation order for the structure, built just two years ago, was ignored.

The government, under pressure to take action against unsafe construction practices following the deadly accident, responded by earmarking 78 high-risk buildings in the capital for demolition.

But as the excavators moved in on Friday, local authorities came under fire for not giving adequate notice,
and Nairobi governor Evans Kidero yesterday suspended the demolitions to give residents time to find new accommodation.

Three buildings near the site of the 29 April collapse which have already been evacuated will still be torn down as planned.

Two brothers who owned the apartment building have been released on bail and an inquiry into the accident is ongoing.

Several buildings have collapsed in recent years in Nairobi and other Kenyan cities, where a property boom has seen buildings shoot up at speed, often with scant regard for regulations.

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Updated Date: May 08, 2016 11:12:00 IST